Senate Republicans have decided their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare wouldn’t fare well in the sun, and so they have shielded it from any public scrutiny.
The bill — its contents still a mystery — could be voted on in the coming weeks without any committee hearings, expert testimony, or public debate.
The House cut plenty of corners in passing the American Health Care Act. The bill was rushed through marathon late-night markup sessions, and the House voted to pass it before the Congressional Budget Office finished estimating what its effects might be. Still, there was a rowdy, if abbreviated, public debate, and the final bill was wildly unpopular with the public — and so Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided the Senate would skip the usual legislative process entirely.
Instead, a group of 13 senators met in private rooms and Senate Republicans talked health care at their secluded lunches while reporters waited for updates that were usually opaque. Members were instructed not to divulge what was discussed in the meetings and aides were chastised for leaking to the press.
The private talks have been fruitful; Republican senators are now edging closer to a health care bill that could pass. It would likely lead to millions fewer Americans having health coverage and billions of dollars being cut from Medicaid, the nation’s largest insurer, as the House bill did. The upper chamber is mere weeks away from an expected vote, even though most senators have yet to see any legislative text.